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King Yalu: chants in the hills

By Yang Fan ( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2017-04-05

<EM>King Yalu</EM>: chants in the hills

The King Yalu epic records the history and development of the Miao people. [Photo/gog.gov.cn]

King Yalu is a heroic epic of the Miao ethnic group of the Mashan Mountain area in southern Guizhou province.

Yalu refers to ancient kings of the Miao people. The epic tells the stories of 17 brave, wise and knowledgeable kings who led the Miao people to fight against enemies and settle at Mashan Mountain after a long, harsh journey.

The epic, told in the Miao language, contains more than 26,000 lines, describing nearly 10,000 people and 30 ancient battlegrounds. Language in the epic is elegant and flexible, with some lines in the form of chants and others in the form of dialogues.

The entire epic has been passed down through oral tradition and is usually performed during funerals. There are few singers in Mashan who know the entire epic, with some parts remaining unknown to most people.

Experts believe that the epic has great value for studying aspects of Miao history, literature, anthropology, mythology and linguistics. For hundreds of years, the epic was only shared among Miao people. To protect the ancient literature, a group of experts initiated a collection of the epic in 2009, publishing its first part in 2012.

The King Yalu epic was also listed as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2011.

<EM>King Yalu</EM>: chants in the hills

Chanting verses from the King Yalu epic is a common feature of Miao funerals and festivals. [Photo/gog.gov.cn]

Edited by Zachary Dye
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